This is an outstanding baker’s dozen of fiddle tunes, all of them originals and all of them with a firm grasp of the tradition. What is even more remarkable is that the writer of these tunes is originally from New Zealand. Jackson moved to Nashville after going to university for jazz studies in Australia. There is no indication of an outright jazz influence other than in the subtle chord choices from time to time and the fine arrangements of each tune.
“Dorrigo” opens with Brad Kolodner’s dexterous banjo playing, and then is joined by Jackson’s fiddle. The tune builds as Andrew Small’s bass comes in, followed quickly by Andrew Marlin’s mandolin. Anyone who is attuned to the younger, more progressive old-time Americana sounds out there should recognize these names. They are movers and shakers in this generation of musicians starting to make their mark.
While no vocals are listed, someone can be heard faintly singing lyrics on the “Cumberland River Roll”/“Tune For Zack” medley. “Cumberland” is an interesting tune that vacillates between a fast 6/8 to a slow 3/4-time signature and back to the 6/8, only to then segue to a fast reel on the second tune—very nicely done.
Unlike some old-time music, the arrangements here are influenced by a method that the late John Hartford used for having instruments come in and others drop out or lay down a quiet line while the other instrument shines. We hear this nicely on “Chapel Hill Deer Stalk,” as well as elsewhere. Even the guitar gets a say—nice! “The River Room” is a stately Celtic-sounding piece. “Barn In The Bend” is a quirky waltz with interesting bends of its own. All of the tunes here will keep you coming back, not only for the tunes, but also for the high level of musicianship that sweeps these tunes out to your ears.
It was a trip to the Appalachian String Band Festival (Clifftop, W.Va.) that inspired Jackson to get into old-time music. He was quite taken by the egalitarian nature of the music. His contributions on this project to the already overwhelming richness of the old-time fiddle repertory will likely be welcomed by those who can never have enough good tunes to play. It shouldn’t be long before some of these tunes start showing up in old-time jams all over. (www.georgejacksonmusic.com)RCB